President Museveni last week commissioned the new $25m Mulago Specialized Women and Neonatal hospital. The 450-bed facility aims to help women from all walks of life. SIMON RASMUSSEN and ZURAH NAKABUGO put the notion to the test.
When Christine Eriya, a resident of Ntinda, Kampala suburb, heard of free services to be offered at the new Mulago Specialized Women and Neonatal hospital until October 9, she rushed to the hospital to be among the first Ugandans receiving these services.
She also thought, by opening up this hospital, government has started considering ordinary taxpaying Ugandans; so, the women will no longer die while giving birth and their newborns will be safe.
However, she told The Observer she was shocked reaching the hospital with stomach complications and the doctors prescribed her drugs to buy from pharmacies outside, and also do the x-ray from outside, yet she didn’t have money.
“Where are the free services that they told us to get from this government hospital, apart from ultrasound scan. When I went to the clinic for x-ray, the doctor told me to pay Shs 120,000 which I don’t have. What should I do now?” Eriya asks.
“What will poor-income earners do especially when referred from rural areas. When the doctors at Kawempe hospital refer you here for an emergency operation to deliver and you don’t have Shs 2m, what will you do? How are these cases going to be handled? Won’t doctors ignore patients without money to die?” she adds.
On the other hand, Dr Augustine Ggolooba, a natural scientist and researcher, says his wife came to receive treatment for infection and also find out if the hospital charges are worth the services offered.
“It’s a good hospital with international standards but before I criticize the high charges, I want to see if there is a change or it is still the same style we had been getting at Old Mulago hospital?” he said.
Dr Ggolooba appreciated the good environment at the hospital and the care offered by the nurses and doctors noting that if the charges are adjusted a bit lower, it will benefit all the poor Ugandans.
Last week, Dr Jane Aceng, the minister for Health, said patients who will require treatment at the new facility will pay Shs 50,000 as doctor’s consultation fees while those seeking In-vitro Fertilization (IVF) will pay Shs 13m and sperm injection will cost Shs 14m. IVF is a medical procedure where an egg is fertilized by sperm in a test tube outside the body.
Other charges include antenatal at Shs 890,000, examination under Anesthesia at Shs 800,000, Pap-Smear at Shs 150,000, Fistula Reconstruction at Shs 2.5m, normal delivery at Shs 800,000, Caesarian Section at Shs 2m.
Others are epidural and Spinal Analgesia at Shs 1.6m, DNA Testing at Shs 500,000, Postmortem at Shs 150,000, immunization Shs 70,000, accommodation Shs 80, 000 per day, and others.
However, Fred Kaggwa, a resident of Bwaise, requests government to first consider provision of healthcare instead of demanding consultation fees and other medical bills, to avoid suppressing the poor.
Dr Ekwaro Obuku, the president of the Uganda Medical Association, says although the hospital charges are competitive on the market, government should create a mechanism so that the poor and the very poor subsidize costs.
“This can be done through the use of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) where the rich can pay for the poor and non-working group by putting money in the insurance scheme. This is how the money invested in the NHIS will benefit the poor in such hospitals,” he says.
On his part, Enock Kusasira, the Mulago hospital spokesperson, says they will work on all people referred at this hospital even if they don’t have money.
“We are aware that there are members of the public, that will not be able to afford the services, but the hospital will not turn citizens away,” he says.
“By the time you come here, and it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that you cannot afford the services, you will be worked on. Mechanisms, methods, and measures are going to be put in place. There is no Ugandan who will be denied service, on the account of being unable to pay,” Kusasira adds.
However, when one puts into account Eriya’s experience, the new hospital looks set to benefit those who are well off.